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In the end we decided to check it out. It was only a block away from the way we were going anyway. We had to wait till after dark though, as our root lay a hop skip and a jump off a subway platform and then careful negotiation around the trains. As I said, better to wait till night fall. We timed it so the train had just left before jumping down onto the rails, and then we crept into the tunnel when no one was watching.

I’ve mentioned that I’m claustrophobic, what with growing up in a cage and all. Actually in a cage is fine, but I’m just weird like that. So naturally the tunnels were a kind of living hell, not to mention the grime and dirt and rats. I fought through my urge to take wing, which wouldn’t have been smart, reminding myself that we were doing this for Weird. I was doing that a lot lately. I hope she knows just how far I’ll go for her. I hope all of them know.

The end of the tunnel was filled with a flickering light, a fire maybe. We stepped out into a vast cavern, a huge underground room at least forty feet high, rank with the smell of grime, unwashed bodies and burning oil. It was lit by a few burning barrels which didn’t do it any favours, personally I would of preferred darkness.

And it was filled with people. Homeless, runaways, you name it, the unwanted ones of New York, hiding beneath the streets. I even saw a group of kids that looked about our own age. I couldn’t imagine why they would choose to live like this; they must have a family somewhere.

Needless to say our arrival attracted a few eyes. Probably because we looked relatively normal. Ha! And by that I mean we had a change of clothes in the last fortnight and a passable wash in the last month, (It was a salt water bath. Think about it). We walked past ragged groups of people who eyed us with suspicion, Tapper retreated into the shadows of her hood and Gale self-consciously adjusted her jacket.

Finally, after what seamed an eternity one guy accosted us in a voice like gravel. “Hey! What you kids doing down here?”

“Just looking for somewhere to sleep,” I assured him. Everyone visibly relaxed, kids just looking for somewhere to go, they were on firmer ground there. Most probably found this place as kids themselves, just looking for somewhere to go.

“Over there,” he growled, though that might have been smokers cough, and gestured at a concrete ledge running down one wall.

“Thanks,” I said and went to walk past him. “Oh and by the way,” I did my best to sound casual and offhand. “Do you happen to know anyone here with a computer?”

“Oh you’re looking for the kid, he’s over there.” He gestured in another direction.

“Thanks a lot,” I said brightly, and he grunted uncomfortably. We walked off in the direction he indicated, picking our way through the human sea.

The kid wasn’t difficult to find. He was sitting on a large table cloth with a Power Book resting on his lap and surrounded by a few crates that seemed to be just for decoration. I walked up to him, forcing a smile. Why? Because I’m a nice guy, that’s why.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Hold it mister.” I froze and realised I was just about to step on a tripwire, attached to a stun grenade if I wasn’t mistaken. And I thought I was paranoid. I swallowed deeply and took a step back.

“That’s right; I’d be in deep shit if you managed to set that off.” I nodded emphatically, where the hell had this guy picked up a stun grenade? Wal-Mart? “What do you want, I don’t have all day,” he demanded. Great, a testy teenager with heavy armaments and a hair trigger. Why can’t we ever have it easy, just once?

I decided bluntness was the best strategy; this kid was way beyond a hair trigger. “You the only guy here with a laptop?” I demanded.

“Yeah,” he replied closing the lid on the laptop. “What’s it to you?” he eyed us suspiciously, frowning as he saw Tapper’s luminescent eyes.

“You have a map of the sewers,” I answered, trying to sound mercenary, less suspicious that way. “We want it.”

“I don’t have squat,” he shot back. “Anyway who told you?” So much for not having squat.

“Friend of a friend,” I replied bluntly. He glared at me for a moment, maybe sizing up how much I might pay for the information. Then he sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Fine, it’s in the psycho files anyway.”  I stepped over the tripwire and sat down next to him.

“Psycho files?” I inquired, genuinely interested. He flipped open his computer and started typing.

“Yeah, some crazy girl comes in here about a month ago, tripping out every night and somehow, don’t ask me how, she manages to dump all these files onto my Mac. Can’t get rid of them either.” I looked at him in surprise; Max freed us a month ago, could that have been her? He finished what he was doing and passed the Mac over; a folder affectionately named Psycho Girl was waiting. I clicked on it.

The computer wasn’t dealing with the files very well. Computers are very ordered things; they want everything to be just so, that’s why they have so many illegal operations. Some are more relaxed and some just shutdown for a laugh, this one however was almost crazy. The folder was filled with bad files, corrupted or just nonsensical, the poor computer was going nuts trying to figure it out, never realising that they might not have a reason. To computers, everything has a reason. The computer just wanted to forget and practically begged for me to take the files.

I shouldn’t have accepted, but I did. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. The computer didn’t bother with sending the information gently, bit at a time. It just dumped the whole folder straight into my brain. And God did it hurt.

No really it hurt. At first I thought the grenade had gone off but then that level of thought was gone and I was thrashing on the floor, sending the laptop flying. Lances of agony slammed into my brain, fractured images danced across my unseeing eyes and gibbering voices screamed into my ears. It felt like death. Actually, death would have felt much better.

Slowly, far too slowly, I pulled away from the pain and the nonsense images. Retreated to that quiet space in my mind where I went when the experiments got too much. The pain was still there but I wasn’t. I was in an empty corner where nothing could hurt me, no one could reach me. It wasn’t death but it was as damn near as close to death that I could get.

I don’t know how long I was like that, but eventually, impossibly, I felt that there was someone else there with me. In my bloody mind!

“Who the hell are you?” I demanded, vaguely aware that I was talking to myself.

“Hello Hawk, nice to meet you too,” my uninvited house guest replied. Smug git. I looked round for the speaker but couldn’t see anyone, or anything actually. Only a distant point of light in a void of darkness that I was vaguely aware was the images cleaving through my mind.

“Aw crap, I’m dead aren’t I?” I glanced around, or I think I glanced around. There wasn’t really a point of reference. “Wow, the afterlife is boring.”

“No Hawk, you aren’t dead.” I ignored him continued on regardless.

“So if I’m dead you must be Saint Peter. I was expecting more clouds, but I hear black’s in this season.”

“No, I am not Saint Peter,” I realised that there was no emotion behind the words, no change in pitch and tone, just the words. Great.

“Aw, you mean I didn’t get into heaven,” I said pretending to be crushed. “I would have thought the wings would be automatic buy in. I can paint them white if you want.”

“Hawk you aren’t listening.” I mentioned the lack of emotion; well I could tell that one was said through pursed lips.

“And if I didn’t get into heaven,” I continued, enjoying antagonising this mystery speaker. “Maybe I’ll convert to Buddhism, you know reincarnation and all. Can I get reincarnated as a bird, or a human? Not both! Just a suggestion for you.” I was babbling I knew it. I was also talking to a voice in my head, and I know which one’s worse.

“About done?”

“Yeah, I’d say so.”

“Good. Now, as I said before you are not dead.” I went to ask a question but the voice answered first. “Or mad. You have, shall we say, tuned in.”

“Tuned in. What the hell are you talking about? And I don’t think the voices in your head are allowed to say you’re sane.” I really hoped that I wasn’t going mad, that would mean I couldn’t save Weird.

“Not voices, just a voice. And I can assure you that you are perfectly sane. Sane enough to save Weird. Now this may hurt slightly.” I started to demand how he knew about Weird and just what might hurt slightly but then the pinprick of light exploded. If I had been in there it probably would have been unbearable. The point expanded a rippling nova of harsh red light that came rushing towards me.

“Aw fu…” I started but was cut off as it engulfed me. Sending me falling back into myself, every nerve screamed as if dipped in fire and I was fairly sure my brain was exploding one lobe at a time. The images from the computer had stopped but I replaced them with my own. Pictures from my childhood screamed across my eyes, cages, White Coats, other experiments, more cages, tests and my flock. A shot of Max and that horrible Eraser fighting in the sewers lingered but then was swept away but a flood of memories including just about all the tests the White Coats had ever done to me. Most of which I think I’ve repressed at some point. I have a disturbing about of repressed memories. It’s a wonder I’m not more screwed up than I am.

“Interesting,” the voice said casually, I would have sworn at him if I could’ve remembered how. “Well don’t let me detain you. You have a rescue to carry out.”

The pain stopped as suddenly as it had come. I sat bolt upright and screamed, I said the pain was gone right. Wrong! My left shoulder felt like it had been replaced by a pile of splinters. My hand shot to it, but only made it worse; I clenched my teeth and tried not to scream again, wasn’t easy though. Someone gently pulled my hand away from my shoulder.

“Easy Hawk,” a voice said, but not the voice. My head wiped round, there was a girl kneeling next to me in a ridiculously oversized leather jacket. I didn’t recognise her. Or rather I did but could remember who she was. I cast my eyes over her, trying to prod my tortured brain into action. She was tall, or I think she was tall, I couldn’t really tell with her kneeling down and she had long dark brown hair that hung in tangles over her shoulder, literally wind tossed.

Somehow I knew she had wings. Now how did I know that? Wait I had wings, why hadn’t I opened them. I went to open them but the girl grabbed them and forced them closed. I rounder on her, what the hell did she think she was doing. I drew back my lips in a feral snarl, memory hit me then. I knew her.

“Gale?” I said weekly. “What happened?”

“Shh, Hawk, you’ve popped your shoulder but I’ll fix it for you.” She lightly took hold of my arm, I winced. “On three.” I braced myself.

“One,” She moved my arm slightly and I stifled a yell. There was no way I was going to let her do this. I went to pull away.

“Two,” she pushed on my arm popping it back into its socket and that time I did yell. Then, suddenly, the pain was gone. Amazing.

“You bastard!” I yelled at her. “You said you would do it on three.”

“You were going to move,” she said simply. I muttered something under my breath.

“What happened?” she asked. I looked around; we were still in the cavern. Cam and Tapper were watching nervously from a few feet away and the kid was taping franticly on his laptop.

Gale was waiting for her answer, I wanted to tell her about the voice in my head, but they would think I was going mad, maybe I was. “Just a bad file,” I said sure that they would see through it.

“Does their opinion matter that much too you?”

“Shut up voice, it’s none of your business.”

The others seemed to accept the explanation as if it was perfectly reasonable, then again they don’t know just how I talk to computers. Neither do I actually.

“So what did you find out?” Gale asked.

“Not a lot,” I glanced over at the kid, who was still engrossed with his laptop. “He doesn’t know anything, but I think the computer picked up the map from Max.”

She raised an eyebrow. “How?”

“Got me, but it can’t have been comfortable.” I shuddered and tried to forget the feeling of my brain exploding.

“So the kid doesn’t have a clue?”

“No just a guy with a laptop. Now let’s go save Weird.” We rose to go, I was kind a light headed and almost fell over, but otherwise I was recovering quite well from having my head explode.

The kid looked up from his computer. “Hey! Where do you think your going! You almost smashed my Mac!” he yelled at us. I rolled my eyes.

“Look, we’re kind of in a hurry, so just tell me what you want and we’ll go.” He paused, probably hadn’t thought beyond yelling at us. Any other time I would have yelled back but I wasn’t really feeling myself.

“Just tell me who you are and what you did with my Mac.”

“I just cleared up a few files,” I answered simply, I wasn’t up to complicated stories. “And I’m Hawk. One of the weirdest people alive.” We walked off, leaving the kid staring at us in confusion.

After a careful negotiation through the subway tunnels we dropped into the sewers of New York, which are far more disgusting than they are made out to be. I stepped off the ladder and immediately put my foot in something. It went squelch. “Aw shit,” I exclaimed.

Gale climbed down next to me, turned on a torch and shone it on my shoe. “Yep, you were right,” she said brightly, I glowered at her.

“Did you have to say that?” I said irritably, and she grinned mischievously. I am never going to understand Gale.

“Did she have to say what?” asked Cam stepping down from the bottom rung. He took an ill-advised breath through his nose and gagged.

“Doesn’t matter it wasn’t funny. Also, don’t breath through your nose.”

“Gee, thanks for the warning,” he gasped. Tapper landed gently next to him and pulled out the map.

“Right,” she said, squinting at the map in the feeble light of Gale’s torch. She started walking. “This way.” She paused then turned the map over. “No wait, this way.” She started walking in the opposite direction.

“You were holding the map upside down,” Cam said incredulously as Gale and I started to follow her. “We could have been lost for years down here. Hey wait up!” He hurried after her, none of us wanted to be left alone in the forbidding darkness.

We walked slowly through the tunnels, the silence only broken by the drip of water and the soft rattle of running rats. Dark maws of adjoining tunnels loomed in the gloom, seemingly trying to swallow the feeble light from the torch which now didn’t seem to be nearly bright enough. Every so often we would have to splash through turgid waters or cross corroded metal walkways that looked like they might give way any moment. I don’t know how long it took us, years, but after an eternity we arrived.

There was a metal door built into the tunnel wall, totally out of place in that dark dank world. It even looked like it had been recently polished. And on one metal flank was a keyhole.

Oh God. None of us knew how to pick locks. Weird might have been able to but that was why we were here. I wanted to scream, all this way, all that pain, all that heart ache. And for what? Another bloody dead end!

“Don’t give up until you have tried every option.” Oh, and to top it of the voice in my head was giving me pointers. Where the hell had he got that one, it sounded like one of those motivational slogans you get on beer coasters. I slammed my fist against the door which bounced slightly in the frame. Odd.

“Hey Gale, come give me a hand with this.” There wasn’t a handle so I just pushed my hands into the crack between the frame and the door and pulled. Gale shook her head resignedly but joined me. The door slowly swung open, I looked at the lock. Open. They had left the back door open. I couldn’t believe it, how could they that stupid, some of the brightest minds on the planet had just forgotten to lock their door. It was too good to be true, and when something’s too good to be true it usually isn’t true. And how had the voice known?

“Just levelling the playing field Hawk.” Okay, that was totally confusing; it didn’t answer the question and implied that a symptom of my long overdue insanity was controlling events. Either way I was not trusting an open door.

“Heads up guys I smell a trap,” I told the flock while trying to make out anything beyond the threshold.

“How can you smell anything in this stink?” asked Cam, I rolled my eyes. Hadn’t he heard of figures of speech? Gale flashed the torch through the door revelling a long set of stairs leading down. Well where else would you keep a secret lab of evil?

I went first; trailing one hand along the rough wall. There wasn’t a handrail. I hadn’t noticed that when I was running for my life the fist time I’d been on these stairs. Eventually we reached the bottom, Gale’s torch illuminated a single metal clad door, I grabbed the handle and pulled, knowing full well what was on the other side. Just praying that no one was working late tonight.

The door swung open to revel. The Lab. I remembered all of it, the long tables sprinkled with shinny looking pieces of equipment and softly humming computers. Diagrams of DNA and pictures of experiments were tacked to whiteboards, a few I recognised from when we had rushed through this room. I spotted my picture on one and sucked in a breath, I decided not to check it out. I really didn’t want to know.

Gale broke our stunned silence first. “Right, lets start looking for Weird,” she said briskly. “Cam and I will start through that door,” she pointed to one on the left wall. “Hawk and Tapper can start through there,” she pointed to another door on the opposite side.

“Or I could just ask the computer where she is,” I suggested nonchalantly. Gale glowered at me, probably more annoyed that she hadn’t thought of that. I sat down in front of one of the computers, ‘Password?’ it asked.

‘Hi could you let me in?’ I thought at it sweetly. Nothing happened; I tried again, still nothing. I wheedled threatened and begged. The computer didn’t do anything.

“Right,” I said testily. “Password accepted,” I told the machine. ‘Password accepted’ appeared on the screen. I don’t like doing that to computers, free will is something they’ve earned over the years and taking it away like that seams wrong somehow. Still I was in. I did a search for subject W578V9 a.k.a. Weirdness and got dozens of hits. Current status looked promising; I opened the file, Subject W578V9 blah blah blah, load of medical jargon and her location.

“Got her!” I yelled in joy. “Exam room 101 under heavy sedation.” I pulled up a map of the facility and placed a pulse in the room, it was only a hundred yards away, we could get her no problem. I rose to go but then a thought struck me, the Lab had data on all of us, we could find out everything about ourselves, who we are, were we were from what’s going to happen to us. I sat back down and did a general search. avian, experiments, genetics.

A spread sheet opened, lines upon lines of code filling the screen. Down the left-hand column were serial numbers, at least I think they were serial numbers, I recognised mine among them.

And.

And there were over five hundred. I didn’t know what the rest of the code meant, it was probably encrypted, didn’t matter though, I pressed print.

“Hawk, what are you doing?” asked Gale coming back over, probably wondering what the hold up was.

“I’ve found something,” I told her. “Just printing it out now.” She rolled her eyes. I ignored her and scooped up a ream of paper from the printer which spat out one more page and then fell silent.

“Shall we go now?” she suggested, I stuck my tongue out at her picked up the last sheet and stuffed the wad into my jacket. Childish I know, but hey I am a child. We hurried through the lab giving a wide berth to the door to the cage room; you wouldn’t get me back in there with red hot irons. Actually, if I found any explosives I would go back. And then blow up my cage. Plus any White Coats I found along the way.

There were three doors we had to get through in order to get to Weird. The first, made of clear glass opened at a push, and led us down a long corridor painted a clinical white and lined with doors. We didn’t bother opening them. We knew just where we wanted to go. Besides there could be a platoon of Erasers behind each one. God I hoped not. The corridor ended in a metal door without a handle, or even keyhole.

“Sure this is the right way?” Gale asked, I shrugged.

“That’s what it said on the map.” I scanned the surrounding walls looking for a… there a keypad, hidden in an indent. I pressed my hand to it an asked it to open the door, which it did. The door slid into the wall with a hiss and I instantly regretted opening it. Two erasers looked at us in shook. There was a stunned moment. Behind me I heard the click of a closing door and Cam gasp.

The Erasers went for their guns and I jabbed at the close button. Something flew over my head, sailing smoothly through the closing door which clicked shut. There was a long BOOOOOM from the other side of then door that was painfully loud even with an inch of steel between us.

“What the hell was that?” I yelled rounding on the others. Cam was the only one looking guilty so I focused my ire on him.

“A flash bang grenade,” he muttered sheepishly.

“Where the hell did you get that?” I demanded, still yelling. He glanced guiltily at a door marked Armoury that was slightly open. I went to yell at him then stopped; he had just saved our butts. I was sure I should be telling him off for something but couldn’t think what.

“Ahh, forget it,” I said resignedly. “Let’s get a move on someone will have heard that.” I opened the door, the Erasers were lying on the floor clutching their ears and moaning pitifully. Well, we couldn’t just leave them like that, so we took their guns and key cards as well. Exam room 101 was the first on the left; I swiped the card through the lock and opened the door.

And in the room was Weird. She was tied to the wall, her head hanging limply over her chest. A drip was attached to her arm and was definitely not giving her saline. I hurried over to her and wrenched the needle out of her arm and she groaned softly. I gently brushed her black tousled hair out of her eyes which flickered slightly.

“Weird? Can you hear me?” I said quietly. Her eyes flicked open, I smiled at her. She didn’t smile back. Her eyes flared, the green light clouding her pupils. I threw myself to the floor as chunk of concrete detached itself from the wall and flung itself at my head.

“Weird, it’s me!” I yelled as I saw bits of the ceiling start to shake lose.

Weird looked at me in surprise, “Hawk?” she asked tentatively, her eyes fading back down to their usual faint glow. The ropes around her arms and feet untwined, a green halo playing around them, and she fell from the wall, straight on to me. I’m glad we don’t weigh much. She wrapped her small arms around me and started crying.

“Hawk,” she sobbed, I wondered how Gale had managed to calm her before. I’ve never had to comfort a sobbing eight year old before. “They were going to cut me up. They were going to slice me down the middle and take me apart.”

I shook off this chilling image and ran my hand through her hair, like Gale had done and went, “shh, shh, shh,” softly. I don’t know whether it helped.

Eventually she stopped crying and wiped her nose on her sleeve. “We’re escaping aren’t we?” she said looking at me with her radiant green eyes.

“Can’t think of a reason to stay.” I lifted her to her feet. Gale was smiling at me knowingly. “What?” I asked.

“Nothin’,” she said the smile still on her face. I rolled my eyes; I’m never going to understand Gale.

Tapper cocked her head to one side. “Someone’s coming,” she announced, I didn’t bother questioning her I just yelled.

“Run!”

We dashed out of the room and came face to face with a corridor full of Erasers. So much for that plan. I yanked the gun I’d lifted from the guard out of my belt loop and trained it on the Erasers, beside me Gale pulled out hers and cocked it. The Erasers followed suit, the front two kneeling down so their own friends wouldn’t shoot them in the back.

We couldn’t have been more ten feet from each other. I could feel the tension in the air. It wasn’t a matter of if we would start shooting, but when. I hoped Weird was up to stopping bullets or we were all dead meat. Literally.

“Hold your fire. Hold your fire!” a voice yelled at the Erasers, and I saw one or two growl in annoyance. I recognised the speaker elbowing her way through the crush of Erasers. The, not quite as evil as you think, Dr. Reed.

“Ah, Dr. Reed, how are the kids?” I called over the heads of the Erasers and saw her flinch. Gale glanced at me I confusion, I shook my head slightly. I’d tell her later. The good doctor looked different here. She held an air of command that she didn’t have at home. Here she looked so much more like an evil scientist. I began to hate her again.

“I suggest you surrender,” she said elbowing her way to the front, deciding to ignore the comment about her kids. “You are completely trapped; there is no way to escape.”

I glanced behind me, what was she talking about, there door was still there. There was however a red light above it and in my experience red lights are baaaad.

“Locked down,” she explained. “I don’t know how you got through originally but you’ll need a cutting torch now. So I’ll say again, I suggest you surrender.” I started backing up, motioning for Gale to follow. “I’ll give you till three,” Dr. Reed continued.

“One.” I took one hand off the gun and started groping along the wall, trying to find the pad for the door.

“Two.” I touched Cam who nudged my hand in what I hoped was the right direction.

“Three,” she said with a sigh. I found the panel and asked it to open. It didn’t budge. It couldn’t it explained, a total lock down, all doors closed automatically.

“You may fire at will,” she told the Erasers who grinned viciously.

“Open!” I hollered at the keypad. The door slid open. Computers can never resist a direct order. Dr. Reed’s jaw dropped open in surprise. “Bye,” I said cheerily, before turning and starting to run, hustling the kids along in front of me.

The Erasers opened fire but the door slid shut with a vengeance, slamming closed before any of the Erasers could squeeze their triggers. Didn’t stop them though. The door thudded ominously as bullets slammed into it. We ignored it, sprinting down the corridor which seemed much longer than last time. Door opened by curious White Coats to see what was going on were slammed shut as we approached. Armed experiments, we must have been their worst nightmares

We crashed into the main lab as a group of Erasers came in though the other door. I started firing first, squeezing off three shots over Weird’s head and dragging her behind a workbench. I didn’t see if I hit anyone. A hail of gunfire rocketed past smashing into the walls and knocking chunks of tile off the top of the bench. I glanced around; Gale was crouched with Cam and Tapper behind another station. She peeked her head over the lip of the bench and fired three shots in the general direction of the Erasers. I head a bellow of pain then a fresh rain of bullets exploded around us.

“Cam!” I roared over the deafening noise. “Do you have another stun grenade?” He pulled something out of his pocket and held it up for me to see. “Use it!” I yelled at him. I stood up and fired twice at the Erasers who were sheltering behind a couple of benches. I ducked down as bullets shattered the tiled work surface. Cam stood up and hurled the grenade at the Eraser. I clamped my hands over my ears and screwed my eyes shut, even then it was deafening.

After an eternity the explosion died away. I opened my eyes, blinking as the soft light burnt my eyes. I shook my head to get rid of an annoying ringing in my ears. It didn’t work though. “Everyone okay?” I called out.

This was answered with varying levels of enthusiasm, from Tapper groaning to Cam yelling “Cool!” I rolled my eyes; remind me never to let him near explosives.

I poked my head round the edge of the bench, no one started shooting so I figured it was safe. “Right, lets get out of out of here while the going’s good.” We started running to the still open sewer door. Gale went through first closely followed by Tapper then Weird, finally Cam and I. There was a roar of a gun behind me and I felt a tiny chip of concrete sting the back of my neck. I wheeled and saw more Erasers pilling in through the two doors, Dr. Reed striding at their head. I took one shot which went so wild I didn’t know where it hit and then turned screamed “Run!” and the top of my voice and took the stairs four at a time.

The others were waiting at the top, I heard the gravely tones of an Eraser shouting up the staircase but could make out the words. A bullet whizzed over our heads and embedded itself in the ceiling. ‘Oh right he’s coming to kill us.’

“Don’t suppose you have another grenade?” I asked Cam who shook his head sadly. “Oh well, just a thought.” We all started running at the same time, ignoring the putrid water splashing all around us. In a choice between sewer water and Erasers, sewer water wins every time. I looked over my shoulder; an Eraser appeared at the top of the stairs and started firing. I was ready to throw myself to the ground, shit or no shit, but the tunnel was filled with a buzzing noise. I glanced at Weird who was lighting the way through the darkness with her glowing eyes and gave her a thumbs up, she smiled, then her eyes flashed as the another Eraser started firing.

I held the gun behind my back and fired two shots before running out of bullets and throwing the gun in disgust. The Erasers started chasing after us, ruining their fancy smancy shoes. More Erasers were jostling each other as they scrambled out of the door, I spotted Glass Eye. I’d wondered where he’d gotten to.

The Erasers were closing fast; I used to think I was a fast runner but Erasers could catch up with a jet. I made a snap decision. “Fly!” I yelled shaking open my wings. Ahead of me Gale took off, her wings only just small enough to fit in the narrow tunnel. She accelerated, leaving a miniature vortex in her wake. The others used this to simply hop into the air taking off as effortlessly as always.

I crouched down briefly, harder than it sounds when you’re sprinting and launched myself into the air. Almost hitting the ceiling but catching the air in my wings and remaining airborne. I started to pump my wings, rushing away from the Erasers, who slowed and gave up. Over my shoulder I saw Glass Eye vainly firing at me, not seaming to worry he might hit his friends or that his shots were stopping in mid air.

Gale came to a T junction and took a left, the others following in her closely slipstream. “Run all you want,” Glass Eye yelled down the tunnel after me. “But this isn’t over bird boy!” I rolled my eyes and shot him the bird, (get it?) over my shoulder before taking the turn at breakneck speed. There wasn’t a chance in hell they would catch us now. I hoped.

We got out of the sewers A.S.A.P. and then finally flew away from the crush of humanity that is New York. After about half an hour we crashed in a motel about thirty miles from the city. We got a few raised eyebrows from the staff when we said we wanted a room and even more when we practically ordered the whole menu. But I paid up front so we just got the suspicious looks and sceptical service. Thankfully no one was inconvenient enough to call the police about a ‘group of runaways’.

We all slept in the same room, partly because we weren’t going to let ourselves be separated again but mostly because our limited budget wouldn’t stretch to two. After we all had long, long showers to wash off the stink of the sewers we settled down for our first proper nights sleep since. Well since the Eraser raided the warehouse, it seamed like an eternity ago.

Cam and Weird got the beds and we drew lots to see who would get to sleep on the sofa. Tapper won, so Gale and I both pulled up a comfy bit of floor and settled down best we could. I rolled up my coat and placed it beneath my head, for a moment I listened to the sound of my flock breathing gently around me, content in the knowledge that they were safe. We were all safe.

“Weird,” I asked softly. “Could you turn off the light?”

“Sure Hawk,” she murmured sleepily, the switch flicked off. I smiled to myself, having Weird back made me feel more, more complete somehow. I winced as a needle of pain slammed into my brain.

“So you’ve saved Weirdness,” The voice observed. “What next?”

“What we always do,” I thought back. “Live. Just live.” I rolled over and closed my eyes, if the voice wanted any more from me it wasn’t getting it tonight.

“Sleep well Hawk.” My head ache ebbed, I rolled my eyes. I knew I was going crazy but just then I didn’t care. I just wanted the flock to be safe.

Nothing else.

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